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United States to renegotiate Korea trade deal

14 July 2017

Jeffrey Schott, senior fellow in trade policy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says it would make sense to update the US-South Korea trade deal to cover emerging businesses such as e-commerce.

"We will dispatch senior officials to the United States and will discuss with our USA counterparts the details on and agenda and time frame".

U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer said in a letter Wednesday to South Korean Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan that the United States wants to meet to discuss "possible amendments and modifications" to the pact.

Trump has sought to shake up US trade agreements, with the NY real estate mogul regularly touting his ability to negotiate "deals". "We can and must do better".

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In a press release by the office of the US Trade Representative, Washington highlighted that since the KORUS FTA went into effect, the US' trade deficit in goods with Korea has doubled from $13.2 billion to $27.6 billion, while US goods exports have gone down.

Since the agreement went into affect in 2012, "our trade deficit in goods with (South) Korea has doubled from US$13.2 billion to US$27.6 billion, while USA goods exports have actually gone down", Lighthizer said in a statement.

Under the government restructuring plan outlined by the new Moon Jae-in government, a semi-independent trade bureau will be set up, with the trade chief to be called a minister. "The renegotiation table opens when the two countries agree to do so". "It is quite different from what the previous administration explained to Americans, asking the treaty to be ratified".

In an interview earlier this year, Trump called the deal "horrible" and a "one-way street". Under the present Korea-US FTA agreement, if one party asks for a meeting of the special joint committee, the other party should, in principle, respond within 30 days.

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With the South Korea deal in particular, the administration likely aims to win economic benefits that would go over well with Trump's base while discouraging Moon from taking too conciliatory an approach with North Korea, the other issue topping the agenda at the summit.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) also said in a report a year ago that the Korea deal has been good for American interests, saying the agreement is estimated to have improved bilateral merchandise trade balances by $15.8 billion in 2015.

At the time the FTA was set, President Barack Obama predicted it would increase USA exports to South Korea, the world's 11th-biggest economy.

Trump kicked off the discussion by saying his administration wants a deal "that's fair for the USA and fair for South Korea". Moon proposed to install a Korean Trade Representative, but the post remains vacant because the government reorganization bill remains pending in the bickering National Assembly.

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United States to renegotiate Korea trade deal